Is the Pope Catholic?

Does a bear do nasty things in the woods?

Why even address the question of whether a blog is social media?

And yet a well-respected colleague, Eric Villines of the MWW Group in Seattle http://www.mww.com/, posed this innocent sounding question to the “Public Relations Professionals” group page on LinkedIn.com. http://www.linkedin.com. The answer seems obvious, but upon reflection maybe it is not.

Why? The great promoters of blogs (and you know who you are) extol the virtues of social marketing. This is a utopian, Wild-West free-flow of ideas that germinates with the introduction of a provocative subject by a blogger. Of course, the blogger is not doing this out of the goodness of her or his heart. The goal is to demonstrate thought leadership (oh how agency PR types love that phrase) in a given subject or a given market.

Does this blogger necessarily want a conversation? Now that is a different question. In some respects, a blogger may want to lecture, instruct, pontificate and maybe even, bloviate. There may be a product to sell, a cause to promote or even a trial balloon to float.

And do companies, particularly always nervous publicly traded companies, want a dialogue? Yes, they want to build brand. And they also want to expand the number of their customers and investors, but do they want input, particularly public input? Some do. Some don’t.

Personally, I led a successful campaign to convince a major Asian technology company to start blogging. What little hair that was left on top of my head is now gone as a result of this process. Since the company trades on the NYSE, they naturally have SEC regulatory concerns (e.g. Reg FD). And they are paranoid about protecting market share and that means preventing inadvertent releases of proprietary information to competitors. These are normal and justifiable considerations.

But it went beyond that. What about comments from readers? Do we allow these comments to be read by others? Yes that is the noble purpose of a blog, but still do we want to air what could be dirty laundry?

The answer in this case revolved around posting a blog link on the company’s home page that transferred to a separate WordPress site. The company was able to review the comments in response to the blog before approving or rejecting them. The company could also comment in response, keeping the dialogue going.

So the answer is a qualified yes, a blog “should” be social media. I use the subjunctive tense to reflect that blogging should encourage a conversation, and that is a great way to build brand and to demonstrate thought leadership.

And consistent with this notion that blogs are social media, let me ask: “Do you agree or disagree that blogs are social media?” An inquiring mind would like to know…and thank you Eric for the great idea.

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